Elephants Build Future Engineers

Children's book introduces youngsters to the possibility of a career in engineering.

Pantoya and her coauthor believe children should be introduced to engineering concepts at a young age.

Michelle Pantoya and her coauthor want to inspire young people to think about an engineer as something they want to be when they grow up.

Engineers make elephants with long, swinging trunks. Wait a minute… do engineers really make elephants? No, but they do make roller coasters!

Thus starts the journey through “Engineering Elephants,” a children’s book coauthored by Michelle Pantoya, a professor of mechanical engineering at Texas Tech, and Emily Hunt, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at West Texas A&M University.

“Children know doctors and teachers and police and firemen and soldiers, but not engineers,” Pantoya said. “This is a way of introducing young children to engineering. Our goal is to inspire some of these young people to think about an engineer as something they want to be when they grow up.”

Filling a Need

Between them, Pantoya and Hunt have seven children ages seven and under. The women discovered that there is a lack of children’s books on engineering geared toward young children ages 4-8 and began work on the book about two years ago.

“Engineering education is a growing issue in our nation, and all research points towards engaging children in engineering concepts when they are at these young, impressionable ages,” Pantoya said. “When we ask kids what an engineer does, the answer is either ‘I don’t know’ or ‘he drives a train.’ So, Emily and I decided something needed to be done.”

The book is available online at authorhouse.com and at amazon.com.

Watch Pantoya read her new book to children at the Child Development Research Center.


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Whitacre College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,646 undergraduate and 1,040 graduate students pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees offered through seven academic departments: civil, environmental and construction; chemical; computer science; electrical and computer; industrial, manufacturing and systems; mechanical; and petroleum.